Chicago moved one critical step toward higher wages for tipped workers Wednesday.
A Chicago City Council committee approved the “One Fair Wage” ordinance to increase pay for tipped workers, but not without some heated debate.
The ordinance will fulfill a campaign promise Mayor Brandon Johnson made, and while it is raising some concerns about how it will impact the restaurant industry, wage supporters are cheering the committee vote.
On Monday, Johnson signed off on a compromise that would phase in higher pay over the next five years.
Right now tipped workers are paid 60 percent of Chicago’s minimum wage. But under this proposal, their pay would go up by eight percent every year until it hits 100 percent in 2028.
The committee voted 9-3 in favor of the ordinance. It will now move to the full city council on October 4, where it is expected to pass easily. It would go into effect on July 1, 2024.
“Passing One Fair Wage is not just admirable, it is what’s just, what’s right, and what’s needed in this moment in this city, for every community in the city of Chicago,” said 26th Ward Jesse Fuentes, bill sponsor.
But there were also many in the chamber there to voice concerns about unintended consequences that could actually hurt wages.
“I think this would highly affect my livelihood, the way I pay my rent, the savings that I put away,” said Destiny Fox, server at Gene and Georgetti’s Restaurant.
Some restaurant employees said they’re excited about the plan even if it means they might get fewer tips. There is also concern about the impact on restaurants’ bottom lines.
“They have no choice but to pass these costs along to their customers and unfortunately that does have an impact dining,” said 2nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly.
The deal was worked out between city council leaders and the Illinois Restaurant Association, whose president, Sam Toia, praised the mayor for being willing to compromise.
Some restaurant owners said this change would require them to adjust their business practices, which could mean higher prices for the customer.
Mayor Johnson declined to address those concerns, saying he has delivered on a campaign promise that the Illinois Restaurant Association signed off on.